Spit Tobacco, Snuff - How & Why


What’s in Spit Tobacco?

There are two types of spit tobacco. They are chewing tobacco and snuff.

  1. Chewing tobacco:It is sold as leaf tobacco (packaged in a pouch) or plug tobacco (in brick form) and both are put between the cheek and gum. Users keep chewing tobacco in their mouths for several hours to get a continuous “high” from the nicotine in the tobacco.
  2. Snuff: It is a powdered tobacco (usually sold in cans) that is put between the lower lip and the gum. Just a pinch is all that’s needed to release the nicotine, which is then swiftly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a quick “high”.

What is Spit Tobacco?

A few of the ingredients found in spit tobacco:

  • Polonium 210 (nuclear waste)
  • N-Nitrosamines (cancer-causing)
  • Formaldehyde (embalming fluid)
  • Nicotine (addictive drug)
  • Cadmium (used in car batteries)
  • Cyanide
  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Lead (nerve poison)

The chemicals contained in chew or snuff makes very “high”. They also make it very hard to quit. Why? Everytime you use tobacco the body adjusts to the amount of tobacco needed to get that high, and need a little more tobacco to get the same feeling. This process is called addiction.

Some say that spit tobacco is better because there’s no smoke, like a cigarette has. Don’t believe them. It’s not a safe alternative to smoking. Just move health problems from lungs to mouth.


Use of spit tobacco and causes:

  • Cancer. Cancer of the mouth (including the lip, tongue, and cheek) and throat. Cancers most frequently occur at the site where tobacco is held in the mouth.
  • Leukoplakia. When you hold tobacco in one place of the mouth, the tobacco juice irritates the mouth. This causes a white, leathery patch to form, and this is called leukoplakia. These patches can be different in size, shape and appearance. They are also considered pre-cancerous.
  • Heart Disease. The constant flow of nicotine into the body causes many side effects including: increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and sometimes irregular heartbeats (this leads to a greater risk of heart attacks and strokes.) Nicotine in the body also causes constriction in blood vessels, which can slow down reaction time and causes dizziness – not a good move.
  • Gum and Tooth disease. Spit tobacco permanently discolors teeth. Chewing tobacco causes halitosis (BAD BREATH). Its direct and repeated contact with the gums causes them to recede, which can cause your teeth to fall out. Spit tobacco contains a lot of sugar which, when mixed with the plaque on the teeth, forms acid that eats away at tooth enamel, causes cavities, and chronic painful sores.
  • Social Effects. The really bad breath, discolored teeth, gunk stuck in the teeth, and constant spitting can have a very negative effect on the social and love life. An even more serious effect of spit tobacco is oral cancer, and the surgery for this could lead to removal of parts of your face, tongue, cheek or lip.


Check the mouth often, looking closely at the places where you hold the tobacco. See a doctor right away, if you have any of the following:

  • a sore that bleeds easily and doesn’t heala sore that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal
  • a lump or thickening anywhere in your mouth or neck
  • soreness or swelling that doesn’t go away
  • a red or white patch that doesn’t go away
  • trouble in chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw

Even if there is no problem today, see a doctor or dentist every three months to have the mouth checked. Chances for a cure are higher if oral cancer is found early.


Read the bad news, but there is good news. Even though it is very difficult to quit using spit tobacco, it can be done. The following tips are helpful ideas to get rid of the habit. Remember, most people don’t start chewing on their own, so don’t try to quit on there own. Ask for help for positive reinforcement from the support groups (friends, parents, coaches, teachers, whomsoever..)

Think of reasons why one wants to quit. One may want to quit because:

  • Don’t want to risk getting cancer.
  • The people around you may find this offensive.
  • Nobody likes to have bad breath after chewing and dipping.
  • Nobody wants stained teeth or no teeth.
  • No body likes being addicted to nicotine.
  • Everybody wants to lead a healthier life.

Pick a date to quit and throw out all your chewing tobacco and snuff. Tell aloud everyday that you’re going to quit.

Ask your friends, family, teachers and coaches to help you kick the habit by giving you support and encouragement. Tell friends not to offer smokeless tobacco. One may want to ask a friend to quit with you.

Ask your doctor about a nicotine chewing gum tobacco cessation program.

Find alternatives to spit tobacco. A few good examples are sugarless gum, Pumpkin or sunflower seeds, apple slices, raisins, or dried fruit.

Find activities to keep your mind off of spit tobacco. One can ride a bike, talk or write a letter to a friend, work on a hobby or listen to music. Exercise can help relieve tension caused by quitting.

Remember that everyone is different, so develop a personalized plan that works best for you. Set realistic goals and achieve them.

Reward yourself. One can save the money that would have been spent on spit tobacco products and buy something nice.